Would you believe Greg Lake, founding member of the legendary bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer and now famed solo artist and producer, didn’t know U2 had covered his song until he heard it this week with the rest of us? U2’s rendition of Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas” premiered December 1, World AIDS day, at (RED) WIRE.
In this exclusive for @U2, Lake shares his reaction to getting the news.
I woke up this morning to the sound of my Blackberry bleating away on my bedside table. With bleary eyes I fumbled with the buttons and saw that an email had just come in entitled “U2 Father Christmas?” I then clicked on the YouTube URL and started hearing this very distinctive and remarkably familiar guitar sound and the sound of Bono singing the words to “I Believe in Father Christmas.”
I was still half asleep and it felt almost as if I was dreaming. All of a sudden I realised what I had just heard! It was indeed U2 playing the song I had written was back in 1975.
A little later on, I went down into my recording studio and played it once again, listening more carefully this time to how the whole thing had been performed. There is a strange thing about most cover songs in that they are usually never as good as the original version. However, just occasionally someone has the ability to come up with an original interpretation which they somehow manage to make their own. A case in point would be Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatles song “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and so it was with the version I was now listening to of my song recorded by U2.
In some ways, “I Believe in Father Christmas” is a very quirky song. It was never written with the intention of it becoming a hit single but was written, rather, as an album track making quite a serious comment about how Christmas had changed from being a celebration of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, into one huge and disgusting shopping orgy.
Although the basic song is very simple, the internal musical structure is actually quite complex and contains elements of classical music and folk music, and just about everything else in-between. It is not an easy song to cover without sounding either as if you were vamping out the original version but not quite as well, or doing some kind of “out there” arrangement purely for the sake of being different. In a way you are sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
The clever thing about the U2 version is that it manages to capture both elements, the original and the inventive without really falling on one side or the other and in this way it is definitely unique. The guitar part is very clever and the vocal, as always with Bono, sounds sincere. That is the mark of a great singer.
Well done chaps! It is great to see the song serving such a worthy cause.
Thanks, Greg, for sharing your thoughts with us. Visit his site for more information about this extraordinary musician.